Tropical Knowledge: Archipelago Consciousness and the Governance of Excess

Paul Carter

Abstract


The focus of this address is on the potential of tropical geographies to inform and transform western epistemologies. The Humboldt brothers establish an identification of the tropics with (simultaneously) the origin of evolutionary development and its finest, most diversified realisation. In contrast, an imperial overlay of continentally imagined national territories has, particularly in the Indonesian, Malaysian and Philippine archipelago, imposed a counter-narrative of truncated regional development and exacerbated social disenfranchisement. This paper looks at the scope to reconfigure ocean connections between formerly connected tropical communities. It suggests that such a project does not drive towards a unitary outcome (a new raft of international legislation, for example) but towards a radically different model of coexistence. In this the performance of sociability is indistinguishable from the protocols governing travel. The emergence of ‘archipelago consciousness’ has, it is proposed, direct implications for the formation of creative communities able to cooperate because of their commitment to managing complexity in concrete situations. The communication thus evolved is, like the navigation of the archipelago, dialogical, poetically mediated and fluid.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.12.2.2013.3334

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